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A-10s set to soar in Al Anbar province

by 1st Lt. Landon Derentz
332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

1/22/2007 - AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq (AFNEWS) -- A-10 Thunderbolt IIs assigned to the 438th Air Expeditionary Group landed one by one at their new home Jan. 17 here.

A formation of more than 200 Airmen assembled for the 438th AEG activation and assumption of command ceremony Jan. 15 as the unit is in the Al Anbar province to provide close-air support to coalition forces in the region.

"We feel extremely honored to support the Combined Forces Air Component commander's mission in Iraq and to be joining the proud heritage of the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing -- the Tuskegee Airmen," said Col. Patrick Malackowski, the 438th AEG commander.

The 438th AEG falls under the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing at Balad AB, Iraq. Brig. Gen. Robin Rand, the 332nd AEW commander, presided over the ceremony and welcomed the 438th AEG into the wing.

"Just like the P-47 Thunderbolts that provided close-air support for Marines storming the beaches of Iwo Jima 60 years ago, the modern-day warriors of this group will soon be providing close-air support in A-10 Thunderbolts for Marines on the streets of Ramadi and Fallujah," General Rand said. "Together, we will influence the course of history and help Iraq transition to democracy."

At Al Asad AB, the A-10s will join the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), soon to be replaced by the 2nd MAW (Forward), as the primary units operating from the base. Marine F-18 Hornets, C-130 Hercules, EA-6 Prowlers, AV-8 Harriers and several types of rotary wing aircraft are currently in use here.

With the addition of the A-10s, the 332nd AEW now has five primary aircraft in its inventory, including F-16 Fighting Falcons, C-130, MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicles and HH-60 Pave Hawk combat-search-and-rescue helicopters. The addition of the A-10s greatly increases the wing's role in providing precision weapons and sensors employment.

"In my opinion there are no pilots who perform close air support better than A-10 pilots," General Rand said. "The 438th Air Expeditionary Group's mission against anti-Iraqi forces will be vital in helping to secure victory in Iraq."

The A-10s are deployed from the 74th Fighter Squadron, Pope Air Force Base, N.C. Their distinctive shark teeth nose art identifies them as direct descendants of the famed World War II P-40 fighters known as the "Flying Tigers." The original shark's teeth and eyes were designed to scare enemies during battles in Burma and China.

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